Music awards hit controversial note with Ortel entry

Ortel - 'Mešita', photo: YouTube

One of the Czech Republic’s biggest music awards – the annual Český Slavík or Czech Nightingale competition, voted on by members of the public – looks like it has become embroiled in a controversy over immigration. According to the preliminary poll results, the highly controversial band Ortel is currently the front-runner in the race to be the most popular band.

Ortel - 'Mešita',  photo: YouTube
The song called Mešita or Mosque by the band Ortel, is accompanied by a video featuring two masked men pointing a gun at the singer, who clutches a paper with Islamic symbols and signs. The video, reminiscent of Islamic State propaganda, has attracted nearly 2.5 million viewers on Youtube.

The highly controversial band, whose hateful lyrics primarily target religious and ethnic minorities, is currently riding high on anti-immigrant sentiments. Last year, the largely unknown band from Plzeň jumped from 105th spot to fourth place in the same Český Slavík competition.

The founder of Ortel, who calls himself Tomáš Ortel, is also the founder of the neo-Nazi band Conflict 88, and Ortel’s song "Hadr" or "Rag" was once the anthem of the neo-Nazi Workers' Party prior to its forced dissolution on the demand of a Czech court in 2010. But for the organisers of the Český Slavík Awards, these facts are not sufficient reasons in themselves for excluding the band from the competition. Jiří Těšínský is the spokesman for the organizer:

“Český Slavík is not a competition. It is a public poll. And according to the rules, anyone can send their votes to any entrant they chose. So that means that we haven’t nominated anyone. We have a rule that we do not comment on any entrant or band until the voting is over. It would be unfair.”

But in fact Ortel would not be the first contestant to be excluded from the Český Slavík Awards. In 2013 the organisers excluded the rapper Řezník or Butcher from the Internet Star category, arguing that he uses explicit and inappropriate language and drug references. Last year’s band of the year, Kabát, received some 31,000 votes and there is a real possibility that Ortel will gather just about the total this time round. Right-wing journalist Adam Bartoš and the head of a fringe nationalist party No to Brussels – National Democracy, which has around 25,000 Facebook followers, has called on his supporters to send in their votes for Ortel. While the organizers distance themselves from the voting, Jaroslav Těšínský admits that they might step in after the polling has concluded:

“After the voting ends, we will evaluate whether it was in line with the regulations, whether there wasn’t any organised voting for instance, and we will also examine whether the singers’ texts and other expressions don’t infringe the law. So we will definitely do this after the voting ends and we might intervene if it’s appropriate.”

The Český slavík awards, originally known as Zlatý slavík, have been running since 1962. This year’s winners will be announced at a ceremony in the State Opera House on November 28.